Julianna Barwick
Healing Is a Miracle


4.0
excellent

Review

by Alex H CONTRIBUTOR (17 Reviews)
July 11th, 2020 | 29 replies


Release Date: 07/10/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Barwick’s lush ambience reaches new heights.

Last summer, taking inspiration from Brian Eno’s seminal Ambient 1: Music for Airports, NYC hotel Sister City collaborated with Julianna Barwick on an interactive score for their lobby. Pre-recorded sounds from Barwick were played in response to visual stimuli above the roof—the moon, clouds passing, birds flying overhead—creating a living, breathing soundtrack. They couldn’t have chosen a better artist than Barwick: her music envelops the listener in a whirlpool of angelic voices that pulls you into a serene and inviting abyss. On her new album Healing Is a Miracle, her art has reached a new zenith. It lives up to its title as a profoundly soothing and beautiful work.

Healing is not altogether much different than her other releases—her layered voice loops are still her main instrument of choice, often swirling together with placid synthezers, soft piano, or delicate strings. Three collaborative tracks shake up the formula in intriguing ways: Mary Lattimore weaves her elegant harp with barely-there piano and cascading choirs on “Oh, Memory”, and Jónsi‘s subdued vocals harmoniously swirl around Barwick's on “In Light”, which nestles skittering percussion and glitched samples into a dramatically building six minutes not dissimilar from her guest’s flagship post-rock. Final track “Nod” sees producer Nosaj Thing adding his moody analog synths and creeping drum loops to Barwick’s reverbed sighs, a superb marriage that darkens her usually empyrean sound. Elsewhere, she dives headfirst into her established aesthetic with confident vigor. Opener “Inspirit” and the ghostly “Wishing Well” are ethereal, unfurling choral pieces that are quintessential Barwick, and the aptly-titled “Safe” features enraptured singing that builds into a contemplative, transcendent climax over a rumbling synth, the yearning melody twisting around you like a cocoon.

Barwick is an artist that, for the most part, you know roughly what to expect. As searching and celestial as her voice and melodies can be, she seems content with her sound, not in a hurry to mess with a good thing. Healing is heavily reminiscent of her previous work, but Barwick advances her sound in small but crucial ways: the sturdier application of synthesizers and percussion, more explorations into tension and unease (the genuinely unsettling “Flowers”, the aforementioned “Nod”), prominent guests that beautifully compliment her divine vocals and refresh the formula. While prior releases felt ten minutes too long and had an occasional tendency to wallow in amorphous clouds of voice and synth pads, the lean 33-minute run time on Healing exhibits a more immediate approach to her wondrous soundscapes, making this a perfect entry point into her catalogue.

I became hooked on Barwick’s music when I was driving home one night from a new job and got lost: it was 11pm in an unfamiliar rural area, and I was listening to her 2013 album Nepenthe. Her warmly embracing voice and stirring ambient compositions assuaged my tired irritation into a palpable feeling of calmness; being lost became something of a delight, and I drove around until the album finished. It’s that spirit that made her a perfect choice for soundtracking a hotel lobby in New York City, and it’s also a large part of why Healing Is a Miracle stands as yet another excellent release from Barwick. It’s a gorgeous, immense respite, her divine ambience exposed to new, subtle shades of light and dark. Her empathetic music reaches out from miles away, a beacon to guide you home.



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user ratings (43)
3.6
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
hel9000
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2020


817 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Just kinda wrote this in a couple hours, not a great review by any means. But this album is wonderful.

Digging: Jesu - Terminus

Ryus
July 11th 2020


21249 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

sweet. this is really good

Digging: Omar S - You Want

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2020


22189 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sweet rev man, album is delightful, like all of her music.

Digging: Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou - May Our Chambers Be Full

JS19
July 11th 2020


7679 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm in love with this record

SowingSeason
Moderator
July 11th 2020


36215 Comments


Glad to see a review for this, nice work covering it.

Digging: Seahaven - Halo of Hurt

Ryus
July 11th 2020


21249 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

wow that hotel is like a 10 minute walk from me, i wonder if the score is still playing in the lobby

hel9000
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2020


817 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ah cool!! let us know if you end up checking it out

Ryus
July 11th 2020


21249 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

according to their website they have a new ai-generated soundtrack by bjork which is equally cool

hel9000
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2020


817 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

that is awesome!

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2020


1860 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice, excited to check this. great review as well, pos'd!

Digging: An Pierle and White Velvet - An Pierle and White Velvet

hel9000
Contributing Reviewer
July 11th 2020


817 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thanks! hope you enjoy

and thanks for the feature! very cool

Pho3nix
July 11th 2020


975 Comments


Will have to give 'Circumstance Synthesis' a spin before this. Sounds intriguing.

brandontaylor
July 12th 2020


978 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

julianna can do no wrong for me. i havent listened to this yet but the review makes me anticipate it even more hotly. review is a nice summary of the album and of her as an artist

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
July 14th 2020


1860 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

feel like this will be a grower, enjoying it more and more each listen

hel9000
Contributing Reviewer
July 14th 2020


817 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

nice, she’s definitely the kind of artist whose songs burrow in after a few listens. this got better and better the more i heard it

Sunnyvale
July 14th 2020


1845 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Pretty cool stuff!

hel9000
Contributing Reviewer
July 14th 2020


817 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

for sure! if you enjoy this nepenthe is another really strong record, produced by alex somers. sounds amazing

bloodshy
July 14th 2020


2625 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I felt like this was lacking a lot of substance, but the soundscapes were on point.

Digging: The Wytches - Three Mile Ditch

Sunnyvale
July 14th 2020


1845 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@helperoni, thanks! I may give that one a go as well

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 14th 2020


20079 Comments


love the magic place and nepenthe and liked the EP that came before those too, but I'll have to check this out



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